Other Discussions on Latin America

The Jesuits, guilty or innocent?

Who is to blame for the appalling bloodshed in Central America? We have distributed excerpts from messages received accusing the Jesuits in the harshest terms. To balance the picture, we quote from an article by the writer Howard Fast (Greenwich Time, 6/14/96). He rises to the defense of the Jesuits: "For almost four decades now, our government has condoned a system of interference and control in Central America, a system based on torture and murder directed broadly against the poorest and most powerless sectors of the population, but specifically against Catholic priests, most of them Jesuits. No Catholic priest has even been accused of carrying a weapon or fomenting strife. Their work has been among the poorest of the poor, and they have walked where angels fear to tread... They were taken up in helicopters--courtesy of the CIA--and then dropped for a thousand feet or so." As for carrying weapons, the Maryknoll Berrigan brothers (not Jesuits) were not only accused but condemned.

In this atmosphere of heated charges and rebuttals, our aim is to establish the facts, not to spread allegations. As mentioned in an earlier memo, the Jesuits have long been the target of accusations, most of them unfounded. When Henri IV of France was assassinated in 1610, the assassin, Ravaillac, was accused of having been influenced by the Jesuit Juan de Mariana, who had lectured in Paris. In the sixth chapter of De rege et rege institutione (1598), Mariana had justified killing tyrants. However, he was speaking in general terms, and Henri IV was not a tyrant. Mariana was jailed by the Inquisition, where strangely he wrote a paper criticizing the Jesuits. It was reprinted by order of Charles III of Spain when he banished the order from Spain.

As for Central America today, we have quoted the charges and the rebuttal by Howard Fast. We will study the evidence and in due course let you know the verdict of the jury.

Ronald Hilton, 06/23/98